University of Vermont

UVM Reserve Officer Training Corps

Cadets Attend Seminar on NGO Activities in War Zones

On Wednesday, February 16th, Cadets from the Green Mountain Battalion attended a presentation by Todd Walters on different programs he has set up and directed on behalf of his Non-Governmental Organization, International Peace Park Expeditions, and another NGO called ACDI/VOCA.

Peace Parks are trans-boundary protected areas that are formally dedicated to the protection and maintenance of biological diversity and of natural and associated cultural resources, and to the promotion of peace and cooperation. The goal of International Peace Parks Expeditions is to utilize these areas as a source of long term sustainment and to promote collaboration over boundaries.

International Peace Parks Expeditions also leads programs called Experiential Peacebuilding, most recently in Iraq. Mr. Walters brought Iraqis aged 17-24 from all different backgrounds, ethnicities and providences for a one week long experiential learning camp on what it means to be a citizen in a new democracy.

International Peace Parks Expeditions created new “provinces” when the young adults arrived at the camp. These future leaders were mixed in with Iraqis of all different backgrounds and became united under a flag of their own design. Over the next week the Iraqis worked together with each other in many different activities set up by Mr. Walters, and the team of Iraqi Facilitators. The Iraqis took part in collaborative problem solving, competitive events, outdoor experiential peace-building, campaigning and coalition building, and the week culminated in a democratic election. The Iraqis left the camp with their prior stereotypes broken and new bonds formed.

Cadets from the Green Mountain Battalion often hear about the Contemporary Operating Environment (COE) in their studies. Non-Governmental Organizations are a big part of the peace-making process in today’s COE, and this event was a great opportunity for the Cadets to interact with the leader of one of these organizations. After the presentation, Mr. Walters held a 45-minute Q&A session in which the Cadets got to ask about what the contemporary operating environment is like for someone who isn’t military personnel and what his interactions with the United States Army were like in Iraq.

The Cadets all left the presentation with a better understanding of the role that Non-Governmental Organizations like International Peace Parks Expeditions play on today’s asymmetrical battlefield. We would like to thank Todd Walters for dedicating his time to come talk with us, and if you are interested in joining a program with International Peace Parks Expeditions, you can visit the website at www.peaceparksexpeditions.org